WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An Iraqi immigrant who has been described as a former U.S. military translator was arrested by federal agents on Thursday for allegedly lying about pledging allegiance to the leader of Islamic State, a court document said.
In a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Dallas, the Federal Bureau of Investigation accused Bilal Abood, 37, of traveling by way of several countries, including Mexico and Turkey, to Syria in April 2013 and returning to the United States in September that year.
Upon his return, the complaint said, Abood, who had also tried to leave the United States in March 2013 but was barred from boarding his flight, was interviewed by the FBI.
The complaint said he admitted to agents that he had gone to Syria to fight with the Free Syrian Army.
When the FBI, armed with a search warrant, seized his computer last year, it discovered that Abood had “pledged an oath to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” according to the complaint. It said that on July 19, 2014, using an Islamic pseudonym, Abood tweeted: “I pledge obedience to the Caliphate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.”
The complaint said that when FBI agents last month went to Abood’s residence to return the computer, he denied ever pledging allegiance to the Islamic State leader but acknowledged that it was a crime to lie to the FBI.
A U.S. defense official said Abood had been a translator for the U.S. military.
Abood made an initial court appearance in Texas on Thursday afternoon and was expected to remain in custody pending a detention hearing on Friday.
A law enforcement official said the case demonstrated the determination of federal agencies to move quickly against individuals suspected of engaging with the Islamic State and to deter other individuals from becoming involved with the group.
Sam Ogan, a federal public defender listed with the court as Abood’s lawyer, could not be reached for comment.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Warren Strobel in Washington; Editing by Ted Botha